02/19/2015 10:43AM

Florida Senate approves bill for uniform drug rules

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A Florida Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would require the state’s racing commission to adopt a suite of new medication regulations that is being pushed nationally by groups seeking uniform rules among racing states.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed the bill unanimously, reporting it to the full Senate. Unlike in many other states, where regulations governing racing are devised and approved by state racing commissions, Florida requires the rules to be debated and passed legislatively.

Florida is one of the largest racing states in the U.S., and supporters of reform consider it critical to add the state to the roster of uniform-regulation jurisdictions. As a measure of the importance, Dionne Benson, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, an organization comprised of a wide cross section of racing constituencies that devised the new rules, appeared before the Senate committee to testify in support of the regulations.

Florida’s rules currently allow for the race-day administration of two drugs, the anti-bleeding medication furosemide and the anti-inflammatory drug prednisolone sodium succinate, a corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are a class of drug that have become much more strictly regulated in racing over the past five years, and the new rules would prohibit the administration of prednisolone in Florida within 48 hours of a race, along the model rule, while furosemide would be legal to administer only by regulatory veterinarians four hours prior to a race.

Florida’s racing industry went to the state legislature last year to lobby in support of an identical bill, but the effort was launched late in the year, and the legislature rebuffed the overture. Racing officials vowed then to go back to the legislature early in 2015. With the entire industry behind the bill, the legislation is likely to be passed this year.

Technically, the bill requires the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to adopt the controlled-medication list devised by the RMTC and approved by the Association of Racing Commissions International, an umbrella group of state racing commissions. The list currently includes 26 medications that can be used within regulated limits as therapeutic medications.

The bill also would require Florida to use an industry-accredited drug-testing laboratory for its post-race testing.